By Maryann Gallucci
Well-Researched Ways to Get Your Heart Healthy! February is the month we celebrate hearts! Not just for Valentine's Day, but it is also American Heart Month. Heart disease kills about one woman every 80 seconds in the United States, and yet too many women are unaware that heart disease is their number one cause of death. February is all about raising awareness of heart disease and how to prevent it. Along with physical activity, we can do so by promoting healthy eating patterns that will turn into lifelong habits. Here are some well-researched ways to get your heart healthy! Stay Hydrated! A recent study published in the European Society of Cardiology found that staying well hydrated throughout life could reduce the risk of developing heart failure. The study suggests that maintaining good hydration can prevent or at least slow down the changes within the heart that lead to heart failure. The findings indicate that we need to pay attention to the amount of fluid we consume every day and take action if we find that we drink too little. Recommended daily fluid intake vary from a minimum of 6 to 8 cups for women and 8 to 12 cups for men. Just a reminder 1 cup = 8 ounces. Start your day by drinking two cups of water when you wake up as well drink two cups of water before bed (that is ½ of your target) during the day be sure to stay hydrated. When working out two glasses of water about an hour before training and then about 8 ounces every 20 minutes during a workout. Your added bonus: optimal hydration will also help with digestion and may decrease joint pain! Incorporating Foods High In Fiber Most Americans consume about 10grams of fiber per day. The recommended amount is about 20-25 grams per day for women and 30-35grams per day for men. Research shows that those who eat a diet rich in fiber experience a 15-30% decrease in cardiovascular-related mortality, coronary heart disease risk, stroke incidence and mortality, type 2 diabetes, and colorectal cancer. Results also found that eating between 25-29 grams of fiber per day was associated with the strongest risk reduction for many of these diseases. Fiber helps your heart in several different ways. Fiber becomes thick and gel-like after you swallow it, making it move very slowly through your gastrointestinal system. This slows down digestion, leaving you feeling fuller faster, and keeping you feeling full longer. High-fiber foods also slow the body’s blood sugar response. Fiber also removes cholesterol from your bloodstream, lowering the “bad” cholesterol in your blood and raising your "good" cholesterol. Fiber is found in all vegetables, fruits, nuts, seeds, legumes, whole grains, oats, and bran. Start your day by eating a bowl of oatmeal or a high-fiber cereal topped with berries. Eat A Diet Rich In Omega-3 Fatty Acids Over time, inflammation due to a diet high in sugar (yes, all sugars) and processed foods, can cause damage to your blood vessels. This damage results in the buildup of plaque or narrowing of the vessel wall. High blood pressure, diabetes, and smoking can also cause this same effect within your blood vessels. Omega-3 fatty acids help decrease inflammation within the body, helping to prevent damage to your blood vessels and the formation of blood clots. Foods rich in Omega-3 fats include salmon, sardines, halibut, avocado, dark leafy greens, chia seeds, flax seeds, walnuts, and other nuts. The American Heart Association recommends eating fatty fish two times per week as well as foods that contain alpha-linolenic acids such as walnuts, ground flaxseeds, and leafy greens, to lower cholesterol. As an added bonus, Omega-3 Fatty acids have been shown to decrease inflammation in the joints and help ease joint pain. Reduce Sodium Intake Sodium is an acquired taste; the more you have, the more you desire. Excess salt is found in fast foods, prepared frozen foods, processed foods, bread, pizza, lunch meats, soups, and more. Just one teaspoon of salt equals 2,300mg of sodium – the average recommended daily amount. While sodium is essential for fluid balance, nerve signals, and muscle function, excess intake can cause damage to your blood vessels. When you eat a diet high in sodium, it causes a shift of water into your bloodstream, increasing the volume. As the volume increases, your body must increase the pressure and work harder. When this increase of blood pressure becomes chronic, it is known as “hypertension”. Over time, it tires your heart and stretches out your blood vessel walls. Hypertension increases your risk of heart attack, stroke, and heart failure. There are usually no symptoms of hypertension. That is why it is referred to as the “silent Killer” It is important to know your blood pressure numbers. For people that are salt sensitive, the American Heart Association recommends eating 1,500mg a day to help lower blood pressure. Remember, sea salt, pink Himalayan Sea salt, kosher salt, and table salt all contain relatively the same amount of sodium per serving! To help cut back on sodium intake, try using a variety of herbs and spices to add flavor to your food and wake up your palate. Herbs and spices such as basil, oregano, rosemary, turmeric, cinnamon, and ginger can also help decrease inflammation and at the same time provide many health benefits. Load Up Your Plate With Color to Be Sure You're Getting a Health Boost From Phytochemicals! Phytochemicals, such as carotenoids, flavonoids, phenolic acids, and organosulfur compounds are cardioprotective compounds found in fruits, vegetables, plants, and roots. This means that most phytochemical-rich foods are also rich in fiber, which compounds their heart-healthy benefits. Phytochemicals may help reduce the risk of disease and age-related decline by reducing inflammation, cholesterol, formation of blood clots, and blood pressure. Some of the popular phytochemicals due to their high polyphenol content include broccoli, garlic, green tea, apples, berries, red wine, and cocoa. However, red wine and dark chocolate show antioxidant benefits when consumed in moderation and in small amounts. But consuming more than five servings of vegetables and fruits per day will provide cardioprotective phytochemical benefits. Yours, Maryann Gallucci Dietitian Nutritionist, The Exercise Box ------------
Maryann Gallucci works in Private Practice providing nutrition counseling and fitness training. She was awarded “2021 Long Island Dietitian of the Year” by the Long Island Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. Maryann completed her dietetic internship at Queens College, where she is currently an Adjunct Lecturer in the Family, Nutrition, and Exercise Sciences Department. While earning her Master of Science in Nutrition and Exercise Sciences from Queens College and her Bachelors of Science in Nutrition and Food Studies at New York University, Maryann worked in a corporate setting where she developed and managed a health and safety program. Maryann currently serves as the Nutrition Services and Payment Specialist Co-chair for the Long Island Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. She is a member of multiple Dietetic Practice Groups.